Students killed in S. Africa crash are named

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The Independent Online

Tributes were today paid to three British students killed in a bus crash in South Africa.

Eleanor Payne, 19, from Hinckley in Leicestershire, Samantha Lake, 19, and Daniel Greenwood, 22, both of Syston in Leicestershire, were in the country on a field trip when their driver apparently lost control on a bend and the vehicle overturned yesterday morning.

Four of their companions remained seriously ill in hospital today.

Assistant Principal Mark Bendle, of Brooksby Melton College, said: "We are deeply saddened at the latest news.

"Our thoughts and sympathies are with their families and friends at this terrible time."

Ms Lake and Ms Payne died at the scene on the Bulembu road, a few miles from Barberton near Nelspruit. Mr Greenwood died later in hospital.

Another eight students from the further education college were kept in the Nelspruit hospital overnight for observation.

The two course lecturers on the trip were among those admitted to hospital.

The group of 18 students were studying for a foundation degree in animal management and welfare and were on a wildlife study tour in the region.

Their bus was travelling on the road from Swaziland to visit a monkey sanctuary when the crash happened.

The casualties, who ranged in age from 18 to 30, were understood to have suffered injuries ranging from a fractured spine to head and face injuries.

Mr Bendle said: "We are a small tight-knit community at the college and an incident like this reaches and affects far more than just those involved.

"We intend to brief staff this morning so that they are able to inform and support our students here at the college.

"We will be providing counselling and support today for all our students and staff who have been deeply affected by what has happened."

All the families of those involved have been contacted.

The church on the college's campus, in Melton Mowbray, was open today for people to leave flowers and messages of support.

Efforts were being made to bring staff and students home as soon as possible.

The group is believed to have arrived in the country on June 1 and had been due to return to the UK today.

Robin Baard, spokeswoman for the Nelspruit Medi Clinic said there were two casualties in intensive care, six in "high care" and three in the general wards. Two are scheduled to go into theatre today.

On her Facebook page, Ms Payne, who lists herself as being "in a relationship", had posted a series of status updates leading up to her trip.

On May 24, the teenager, who appears as "Eleanor 'Elepoo' Payne", wrote: "exams are OVER!!! Africa in just 8 Dayss!!! woooppppp!!! x."

A later posting on May 31 read: "all packed.. where am i going again.. oh yea of course its... AFRICA!!!!!! :D x."

And in her final update, posted on June 1, she wrote: "goodbye fellow facebookers... returning in 12 days.... im off to AFRICA!!! x."

Speaking at the scene, police spokesman Captain Leonard Hlathi said: "There was a bus crash and two of the passengers, both female, passed away at the scene.

"Twenty of them were taken to the hospital and one of them was described as critical and was airlifted to Nelspruit Medi Clinic."

He said the driver "apparently lost control and overturned".

South Africa's roads are notoriously dangerous. A case of culpable homicide has been opened against the driver, a Zimbabwean, although police are still investigating whether to bring charges.

Brenda Greaves, the mother of one of the students, said her daughter Rachel, 20, claimed to be the only one wearing a seat belt.

She told the BBC: "She's got some abdominal pains, for which she's had an X-ray, but everything seems to be clear.

"She was wearing a seat belt, she says she was the only one wearing a seat belt - I'm not sure if that's the case - but it seems as if the seat belt sort of caused the pain.

"She said that they were going round a very nasty bend and the driver just lost control and that the bus just toppled over."

British High Commissioner to South Africa Nicola Brewer said: "My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the three young people who have died in this tragic accident.

"I have visited the two lecturers with the group in hospital and a number of the other young British patients."

Consular staff were arranging to recover the students' personal effects, including luggage and passports, from the South African police, she said.

Capt Hlathi said earlier yesterday that there had been 20 injured, including 18 Britons, the South African tour guide and the Zimbabwean driver.

The driver was treated for his injuries and discharged from another local hospital.

Ms Baard said yesterday: "Two of (the casualties) were very seriously injured. One is in theatre now with internal injuries."

She said four other patients she knew of had injuries including facial lacerations, broken ribs and collar bones.

The nature of the injuries meant plastic surgery would be necessary, she added.

Brooksby Melton College principal Chris Ball said: "As you can imagine, we are all deeply shocked and our thoughts and concerns are for the students, their families and staff involved.

"We would like to assure all our students and their parents and families that we will support them at this very difficult time."

The college said it was considering sending additional staff to South Africa to provide support.

The field trip was organised with Hampshire-based travel firm Chameleon Worldwide.

A spokesman for the company said: "Chameleon Worldwide is doing everything possible to assist those involved and the South African authorities at this difficult time.

"We would like to express concern for those students and teachers involved and their relatives.

"We have a team of people, including a senior director of the company, flying to the scene in South Africa."

The hospital spokeswoman said the South African tour guide was released from hospital last night.

The Zimbabwean driver attended a police station voluntarily and a case of culpable homicide has been opened against him.

The casualties are expected to give witness accounts to police in the coming days.

Arriving at the hospital today, High Commissioner Ms Brewer said: "Our priority for today has to be to offer all the support we can to the families of the three young people who so tragically died yesterday.

" We will also be giving every consular assistance we can to the 11 people here in the Nelspruit Medi Clinic.

"I visited some of the injured yesterday and I hope to see some more of them this morning."

She said a member of the consular response team was with the group of six young people who were discharged yesterday.

"They are hoping to get back home as soon as possible.

"We hope it might be today."

She described the response from the South African authorities as "first class".

She could not give any details of any family who may be flying out.

She added: "We are not expecting any further discharges today.

"Four people went to theatre last night. A further two people are expected to be in theatre today."

She said consular staff were at the mortuary working out how the bodies will be returned to the UK.